Friday, March 20, 2009

Nature walk this morning

This magnificent snail was crossing our path. I have never been on that trail early enough in the day to see these snails when they're not asleep. Until today :)

There were a lot of these black beetles in one area. Many were paired up and "spooning" like these two.

The single ones were diggin' around in the soil. I think this was the tailings of a gopher mound.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cute bug-themed stuff for spring

Once again I have found myself staring longingly at a bunch of colorful cute bug items intended for children. These were at my local Joanne Fabric & Crafts.

I spent several minutes considering whether to actually purchase any of these things. I thought the little tote bag would make a nice purse, but I would need to lengthen the straps somehow, and make a way to close it (like that would ever really happen.)
I love the little tray with the sections, but seriously, would I ever eat from it? And it's an odd size that would not store well with all my round plates and stuff.
And so it went on like that for too long, with me trying to find a reason to buy something while simultaneously trying to talk myself out of it. In the end I decided to just take pictures of them.
I have posted about similarly delightful kids'/bug-themed items that I found at Target here and here. (In fact I checked Target out a few weeks ago, but I didn't see anything new and interesting.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mantis Monday for 3-16-09

I haven't posted a Mantis Monday picture in a long time. Edith Zimmerman made this clever green onion mantis right on her kitchen cutting board, from the looks of it. Please check out her blog for other artfully created food items!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I accidentally unearthed this bright green caterpillar while I was weeding. I wonder if it will turn into one of these green moths? It might just as well turn into a brown one, for all I know.
I popped it, weeds, soil and all, into a little container. With a little luck it will pupate soon and we'll see what comes of it.

Enforced captivity

It's the dawn of the second day of the little monarch's life. I found that he had enlarged the hole he made in the leaf last night, after which he made his way to another leaf, and was actively exploring when I took these pictures.

I wonder if he's just looking for a place to settle down, or is he not satisfied with what this plant can provide in the way of nutrition? Maybe he's trying to find the real milkweed. In any case, I decided I had better put him and his plant in a little enclosure to keep him from wandering too far.

It will be harder to observe him now, but it's better just to let nature take its course for the next few days, and then I'll open it up and see how he's doing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Just hatched

One of the monarch eggs on the plant I'm observing. I knew it looked ready to hatch this morning, but I was not able to just sit and watch it all day, so I just kept checking on it when I could and sure enough, I managed to just miss the actual hatching.

Here's the little guy eating his first meal: his egg shell.

At last check, he had finished eating the shell, and had also eaten a teeny little hole in the leaf, but it's too dark to take his picture any more today. (The pictures above were taken outside in the sun.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A milkweedy weed

While walking through the arboretum the other day, I came upon a weak and tattered Monarch butterfly. Although she could barely fly even 2 feet off the ground, she was still fluttering busily from one tiny plant to the other.

I soon realized she was actually ovipositing, laying eggs, on these little plants. But what are these little plants? They don't look like the regular Asclepias curassavica milkweed plants that the Monarchs use at the arboretum.

My first thought was that this poor old, dying female was trying to put her last few eggs somewhere, anywhere, because she could no longer fly to where the proper host plants were.

Here's a shot of one of the little weeds next to my hand, for a size reference. The little white spots you see are not monarch eggs, but the white milky sap that oozed out when I picked a leaf.

So, hmmm.....maybe the butterfly knows something about this plant that I don't.

A little farther along on the same trail, I found these same plants supporting small colonies of yellow oleander aphids. This is the same aphid that commonly infests the milkweed plants (A. curassavica) that the monarch caterpillars love to eat.

So, I sought an ID from our ever-knowlegable plant curator, who quickly recognized it as Araujia sericifera, an invasive vine that is from the same milkweed subfamily: Asclepiadoideae. He said they must remove this pesky plant, or the vines would grow and grow until they overtake even the tallest trees in the arboretum. So don't expect to save it for the caterpillars. I didn't expect that, I assured him. I just wanted to find out if it really was a monarch host plant. Besides, so far I had only just seen one tattered old butterfly laying eggs on it. I hadn't seen any caterpillars...

But wait!
Today when I went to collect a few of the plants that had eggs on them, I found a small caterpillar on one. I am going to try potting up a few of these weeds (taking care to make sure they don't escape and take over my whole back yard, of course) and try to see if a caterpillar will actually grow well on them. If they do, it would at least be another food source for the teachers who are always running out of milkweed for the caterpillars in their classrooms.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A short lizard tale

This morning, as I was gathering some old palm fronds to put out for the trash (green waste, it will be composted), I exposed some critters that had been lying beneath them. After I had put the fronds in the trash can, I turned back to see a large alligator lizard where they had been.

I'm guessing it was a female, by the head and body size. And she had a sowbug-killer spider in her jaws. The spider was probably looking for a new place to hide under, and the lizard was quick to grab herself a little breakfast.

And nice enough to sit still while I ran for my camera.

And that's the end of the tale. I told you it was short :)

A handsome snail

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